If These Halls Could Talk: The Hilarious Case of Maguire University

How the fictitious ‘school’ came to be – even though it never was a real college.

By Mark Vruno

The more I learn about Maguire University, the more my stomach hurts from laughing. It is difficult not to laugh, or at least smile and smirk a little. I first caught wind of Maguire U last winter in the Faculty Cafeteria at Fenwick, sitting and chewing the proverbial fat with John Quinn ’76, Fenwick alumnus, longtime social studies teacher and Catholic League Hall of Fame basketball coach.

The conversation turned to the late, great John Lattner, who had passed away about a year earlier. Mr. Quinn was laughing, almost snorting, between bites: “Did you ever hear about Maguire University?” he chuckled, nearly choking. No, I had never heard of that school, I said, wondering what the heck was so funny. Little did I know!

It is good that Quinn is one of Fenwick’s unofficial school historians because, as it turns out, there is nothing official about Maguire U. The infamous university was “created” 55 years ago in a semi-respectable Madison Street establishment in nearby Forest Park called, what else: Maguire’s. With the annual March Madness basketball craze upon us, this is how the story goes …

Humble Beginnings

The athletic recruiting game was quite different, for both Catholic high schools and major college sports programs, in the 1960s – three decades before the Internet was birthed and long before “social” media platforms such as Twitter reared their electronic heads. Back then, if a coach wanted an eighth-grader to play for him at a certain high school, it was in his best interest to find out where the kid’s old man hung out socially and maybe get invited to a confirmation or graduation party.

It wasn’t much different for college coaches recruiting Chicago-area talent, particularly for the football gridiron and hardwood basketball courts. They knew where to go to meet a concentration of high school coaches in the city: Maguire’s.

Every February Chicago Catholic League (CCL) football coaches congregate at the league’s annual clinic in Oak Park at Fenwick, where the powwow has been held every winter for the past 72 years. Older fans will recall that, in the 1960s and ’70s, Fenwick and the CCL were recruiting hotbeds for Big Ten football coaches, including University of Michigan legend Bo Schembechler. Some coaches also may recall that, a few years back, a keg could be found tapped in the school’s lower-level student “green” cafeteria, where the post-clinic fraternizing commenced. Nowadays the coaches toast their religion and each other on Madison Street in Forest Park, which is exactly where the college coaches knew where to find them back in the day.

The Fat Duck Tavern & Grill now sets on the Forest Park site where Maguire’s used to be.

Giving the tavern a school’s name originally was the brainchild of college recruiters in town to woo the coaches of prospects from Chicago. Telling their athletic directors, to whom they reported back at the real universities, that they were conducting business at “Maguire University” sounded more respectable than Maguire’s Pub. Hence, the pseudonym was born.

Continue reading “If These Halls Could Talk: The Hilarious Case of Maguire University”

The Fenwick Love Connection

On Valentine’s Day last month, the FHS Facebook page posted about how Cupid’s arrow struck the hearts of our ‘First Friar Couple.’ Turns out, romance is in the air more than we first thought!

By Mark Vruno

Father LaPata ’50 baptized the Ori’s son, Joseph Thomas, on March 11th in the Fenwick Chapel. Godparents are Janessa and Frank Perna. ’03.

With St. Patrick’s Day 2018 in the rear-view mirror, today is, of course, St. Joesph’s Day. In honor of the feast day of the patron of the universal church, fathers, families, married people and much more, here is a rundown of couples who are sweet on each other — and who have Fenwick in common.

The Keating children.


We thought that Brendan Keating ’97 and his wife, Christa Battaglia ’97, may be the first double-alumnus couple from Fenwick to have gotten married (based on their wedding date). Perhaps it is fitting this St. Paddy’s-St. Joe’s “long weekend” that theirs is one of several mixed, Irish-Italian romances. Brendan grew up in Oak Park and went to St. Bernadine’s, Fenwick and Loyola U. Christa is a St. Giles’ girl. The couple has two children, ages six and three.

The Thies Family

Fenwick Athletic Director Scott Thies ’99 and his wife  Lea (nee Crawford) ’03 are the proud parents of three children: two boys and girl. Admissions Director Joe Ori ’03 and his wife Jen (nee Morris) ’03, an English teacher for the Friars, in January celebrated the birth of their first child: a son, Joseph, Jr.

The Lileks gave thank for Baby Ernie this past Thanksgiving.




From the Class of 2005, Paul and Chrissy (Tallarico) Lilek welcomed home a baby boy, Ernest, born on Thanksgiving Day 2017. (In addition to being a new mother, Mrs. Lilek also is a new Spanish Teacher at Fenwick.)

Alex gave the new Holmbergs the thumbs up in November ’16.



Social Studies Teacher Alex Holmberg ’05 married former Fenwick English Teacher Georgia Schulte ’05 in November 2016. The couple is expecting their first child literally any day now (March 20 due date!). “I think Mr. Arellano may have introduced the Holmbergs and the Ori’s at our New Teacher Cohort Summer Orientation Program,” says Faculty Mentor Dr. Jerry Lordan.

Ryan Alexander Holmberg was born on St. Joseph’s Day: March 19, 2018.

Thanks to more than 20 alumni comments on Facebook, Friars and their friends have chimed in to inform us that there is at least a baker’s dozen more romances that blossomed within Fenwick’s hallowed halls and have matured, resulting in the holy sacrament of marriage:

Class of ’96:

John & Marianne (Palmer) Carrozza

The Fantasias have resided in the Cayman Islands for the past 13 years.

Anthony & Margaret (Arts) Fantasia were married in June 2004.  The couple currently lives with their three children (Isabella, 9; Leo, 7; and Joseph, 6) in the Cayman Islands.

Class of ’97:

Chris & Chrissy (Gentile) Carlson

Pat McMahon with his hands full.
Mina McMahon in the driver’s seat.



Patrick & Mina (McGuire) McMahon

Jeff & Suzanne (Sharp) Williams 


Class of ’98:

Larry and Katie Dolendi with their twins.

The Dolendis are married “but we didn’t date in high school or college,” writes Katie (Morelli) ’98. “It happened a in our mid-20s.” She and husband Larry Dolendi ’99 are the proud parents of six-year-old twins Reese and Riley.

TJ and Sue Maloney and family.



Andrea and Mike Mostardi ’98

Tim & Maureen (Goggin) Funke

TJ & Sue (Atella) Mahoney

Michael & Andrea (Geis) Mostardi

Class of ’99:

Lena and Kevin McMahon ’99

Kevin & Lena (Lloyd) McMahon

Class of ’00

Dan & Colleen (Dan) Doherty

Class of ’01 & ’02:

Paul & Jessie (Drevs) Wilhelm

The Wilhelm’s look of love.


“We met in Madame Schnabel’s French II Class back in 1999!” Jessie writes. “We still look back on the pictures of us both from the French Club’s trip to France (over the summer of 2000, I believe). Although we didn’t find our l’amour while at Fenwick, we reconnected after college and were married in 2014. We are both proud to be Fenwick alums, but even more so we are grateful to be as we may not have found one another otherwise.”

Class of ’04:

David & Teresa (Nierzwicki) Pollitz

Class of ’05:

Patrick & Sondra (Tenorio) Healy

The Italian destination wedding of Meg Scanlon & Michael McGillen ’07 was featured in Vogue magazine.

Class of ’06:

Tim & Nanci (Reggi) Gallo

Michael & Meg (Scanlon) ’07 McGillen

Class of ’07:

Brian & Anastasia (Tesfaye) DeMaio

Class of ’09:

Alex & Kim (Nelson) Furth

Continue reading “The Fenwick Love Connection”

79th Edition of March Madness Has Fenwick Ties

Three Fenwick Friars are among the teams selected for the NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments this year.

By Mark Vruno

Loyola-Chicago (28-5) won the Missouri Valley Conference this season and punched its ticket to the Big Dance. (Chicago Tribune photo)

The 2018 edition of March Madness commences today as the NCAA Basketball Tournament play-in games tip off. There’s still a buzz coming from Rogers Park on the North Side of Chicago, where the Loyola University men’s team is in the “Big Dance” for the first time in more than 30 years (since 1985). Presently, there are 17 Friars enrolled at Loyola, including Kevin Latz ’16, who exclaims, “Students are more excited about Loyola basketball than ever before! I know some students who are even flying to Texas for their first game. A lot of students are talking about watching their basketball games for the first time, which is great for school spirit.” Latz and his classmates are cheering loudly for the 11th-seeded Ramblers, which take on the 6th-seeded Miami Hurricanes on Thursday afternoon at 2:10 p.m. in Dallas.

Fifty-five years ago, the Ramblers defeated Mississippi State to win the National Championship amid Civil Rights tension.

Fenwick’s own math-teaching whiz Roger Finnell ’59 was a student on campus in the early 1960s, when the Ramblers won the National Championship. Mr. Finnell’s memories of that special time:

“1963 was my senior year at Loyola. I remember everyone being amazed at all of the really good teams we were beating, including Ohio State early in the season — sort of like how Loyola first got noticed this season when they upset Florida, ranked top 5 at the time.

“First semester I was in a tough Political Science class with two basketball bench players. They did not survive to be eligible second semester!

“I remember the night of the championship game. It was a Saturday night, and the game was only on the radio with a television replay that night at around 10:00. Certainly nothing like the coverage these days.

“I remember the famous story of when we were going to play Mississippi or Mississippi State in an early tournament game. The Mississippi governor was threatening not to let the team play us because we had African-Americans on the team (four of five starters). Their coach literally snuck the team out of the state a day early to prevent the governor from blocking their travel to the game site.

“The championship game was very exciting to listen to and very close all the way. I remember the play-by-play announcer (Red Rush?) going wild when we won in overtime.

“I believe the present Loyola team is only one victory shy of matching the 1963 win total. Go Ramblers!”

Selection Sunday

Planek and the “other” Friars are in!

The Friars of Providence College punched their ticket to the 2018 NCAA Division I Tournament by beating Creighton in overtime in the Big East Tourney quarter-finals last Thursday. Fenwick double-Friar Tom Planek ’14, a 6’7″ senior forward on Provie’s men’s basketball team in Rhode Island, walked on and subsequently earned a scholarship. Those Friars have posted a win-loss record of 21-13 and lost an exciting overtime game to Villanova on Saturday night in the Big East Tournament. On Friday, their 10th-seeded team will play Texas A&M (#7 seed) at 11:15 a.m. in Charlotte, North Carolina (so-called West Region). Planek, who has seen action in 12 games to date this season, earned his bachelor’s degree in three years and will graduate this spring with an M.B.A. He is from Oak Park.

Danny Dwyer is the second of seven members of FHS’s Class of 2014 who played college basketball in the 2017-18 season. Dwyer is a 6’8” senior forward for the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), which won the Ivy league conference tourney on Sunday with a 68-65 victory over Harvard. In the Midwest bracket, the 16th-seeded Quakers will take on the mighty Kansas Jayhawks in the first round on Thursday at 1 p.m. in Wichita. Originally from River Forest, Dwyer has faced some health-related challenges this season but still is on the team.

Nixon’s MSU team is in the NCAA Division II Tourney.

Jamal Nixon is a 6’4” freshman guard for the Minnesota State Mavericks (Mankato) in the Northern Sun Conference; hometown: Plainfield. The 24-9 Mavs earned an at-large berth in the Division II NCAA Tournament and are seeded 8th in the Central Region. On Saturday they upset defending national champion Northwest Missouri State, then defeated Southwest Minnesota State 74-70 in the semifinal game on Sunday to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Next, they face Northern State (from South Dakota) for the region championship and a berth in the final eight. Tipoff is 7 p.m. on Tuesday night in Maryville, Missouri.

Nixon, Dwyer and Planek join these other Friars who hooped it up at the next level this season:

Continue reading “79th Edition of March Madness Has Fenwick Ties”

Alumni Spotlight: Phil Caputo ’59

The writer and former Marine Corps lieutenant from Westchester commemorates the 40th anniversary of his critically acclaimed Vietnam memoir, A Rumor of War.

By Mark Vruno


Alumnus Phil Caputo wrote his Vietnam War memoir 40 years ago.
(Image courtesy of Michael Priest Photography.)

Perhaps you have sweated through intense, war-inspired films such as “Saving Private Ryan,” “The Deer Hunter,” “Full Metal Jacket,” “Hamburger Hill” and “Platoon,” the latter of which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1987. Some readers literally wept while reading Flags of Our Fathers, imagining the hell on earth that their own fathers went through during World War II. But if you’ve yet to experience Phil Caputo’s 1977 Vietnam memoir, A Rumor of War, be forewarned that it, too, can be emotionally draining.

Caputo is a Fenwick Friar, Class of 1959. He also is graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a B.A. in English. Later in life Caputo became an award-winning investigative journalist and, after that, a New York Times (NYT) best-selling novelist. In between, “PJ” Caputo served as a U.S. Marine Corps second-lieutenant on the ground in Vietnam. He was one of some 2.5 million American troops — men and boys — sent to help fight the war against communism in Southeast Asia. He thought his U.S. Marine Corps mission would be one of glory, and he admits to being unprepared for the gore of it all.


Caputo in 1959 (FHS Yearbook photo.)

Over the course of four decades, the book has had staying power, the author says, because its overtones of changing perspectives still resonate with readers young, old and middle-aged. “We have seen how the Vietnam Era, which includes the tumult of the Civil Rights and Feminist movements, is the source of most of the divisions experienced in our country today,” notes Caputo. “It’s like a windshield crack that spreads if not attended to — where was the initial break?” he asks metaphorically. “I trace it back to Vietnam and the delegitimizing of the United States’ government,” which lost much of the trust that the American people had in it, he added. The Vietnam Era is the epicenter of that thought process, Caputo contends.

Reflecting on the anti-war protests, campus sit-in’s and riots of his youth, Caputo is quick to point out that it wasn’t only the federal government that he and his peers under the age of 30 refused to trust. “There was a general distrust of every institution: business, academia. Over time, this distrust has passed from the left to the right,” he observes.

Continue reading “Alumni Spotlight: Phil Caputo ’59”

‘Lady Bird’ Is Director Greta Gerwig’s Theological Ode to the Value of Catholic Education

The Friars of Fenwick should cheer for her breath of fresh air as this year’s Oscar winners unfold on Sunday!

By John Paulett

“Lady Bird” won the Golden Globe for Best Film (Musical or Comedy) and is nominated as Best Film at Sunday’s 90th Academy Awards (the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ annual “Oscar” event). The intimate and sweet film tells the story of Christine McPherson, a senior at Immaculate Heart High School in 2002 Sacramento, CA. Christine goes by what she calls her “given name:” Lady Bird. She explains to anyone who asks that it is her given name because she gave the name Lady Bird to herself. We feel in her self-naming that Lady Bird is someone special, a young woman who just hasn’t found a good way to fit in.

The film is unusual because it does not make fun of Catholic schools or demonize religious teachers. “Lady Bird” feels more like a love letter to a Catholic High School. Director Greta Gerwig, who attended a Catholic high school, seems to have understood the real character of Catholic education. Most films, songs and books about Catholic education focus on the oddities (“Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?”). Nuns often seem quaint characters or fierce tyrants. Catholic students are either beaten down or rebellious (Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young”). There is none of this in “Lady Bird.”

The priests might be a little eccentric, but they are passionate and caring. The director of the high school musical is a Jesuit who has an emotional breakdown when audiences just do not get his interpretation of “Merrily We Roll Along.” His distress is funny when considered in light of the original production’s New York audiences, who were bewildered by Hal Prince’s first staging of the play. After he falls apart, he is replaced as drama director for Shakespeare’s “Tempest” by a priest who is also the JV football coach. The good father is better at designing offensive football plays than he is at directing a play, so the staging is planned in diagrams of X’s and O’s. Still, the coach-priest brings the same commitment and excitement to iambic pentameter as he does to Friday-night lights.

The counselor (Sister Sarah-Joan, played to perfection by veteran actress Lois Smith) is warm, funny and understanding. She compliments Lady Bird on her drawings of Sacramento, saying that her art demonstrates a lot of love for the city. Lady Bird cannot accept the kind words and shrugs them off by saying she simply pays attention. The nun responds, “Don’t you think that might be the same thing? Love and attention?”

Grace = Love and Acceptance

Here is where the theology surfaces. Love and attention are the same thing in Catholic belief. Catholics believe that God is not impersonal. The world was not created by a Divine Watchmaker and set spinning. God is deeply and lovingly concerned with every person, every creature. God pays attention. It is what our theology refers to as “grace.”

Actress Saoirse Ronan (left) portays Lady Bird, and Laurie Metcalf plays her mother.

Ultimately, “Lady Bird” is a film of grace and a film about grace. Lady Bird laments to her mother, “What if this is the best version [of myself]?” This is the question that teachers in Catholic schools attempt to help their students answer every day. Because of our deep commitment to the idea of creation imago dei (we are created in the image of God), we nurture in our students a deep faith that they are the people God created them to be.

Continue reading “‘Lady Bird’ Is Director Greta Gerwig’s Theological Ode to the Value of Catholic Education”


Meet the former U.S. Olympic hopeful from Oak Park (OPRF) who is relentlessly pursuing a state title for Fenwick.

By Mark Vruno


The first observation most people make upon meeting Pete Kowalczuk, Fenwick’s first-year Head Varsity Wrestling Coach, is that he is a very large man with a broad frame. When he still was competing five years ago, Kowalczuk wrestled as a 265-lb. heavyweight. That weight class was trimmed down by 20 pounds from his high school days at Oak Park River Forest, where he was named All-State and finished as the #2 heavyweight wrestler in Illinois as a senior in 2007. (For three seasons, he also played on both sides of the line for the Huskies’ football team.)

Wrestling is the sporting circle in which the K name is best known. In 2008 after high school, Kowalczuk placed fourth at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Greco-Roman wrestling and was a Junior World Qualifier at the Fédération Internationale des Luttes Associées (FILA), which is the sport’s international governing body (and changed its name to United World Wrestling in 2014). Since his days of grappling on the mat officially ended five years ago, the XL man known by friends and former teammates as “Big Petey” answers to a different moniker: Coach K.

The 28-year-old still likes rolling around on the Wrestling Room floor at Fenwick and maybe even clamping on a vise-like, “figure-four” leglock move, especially with 200-pound Jacob Kaminski ’20. Kaminski is last season’s All-State freshman phenom — 22-2 record, CCL and Sectional Champ — who has his sights set on being a legitimate state championship contender in early 2018. He was undefeated heading into the Christmas Break, currently competing in the 220-lb. class.


Fenwick’s “Coach K” demonstrates a take-down technique on sophomore sensation Jacob Kaminiski.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines relentless as showing or promising no abatement of severity, intensity, strength or pace: unrelenting. There is a highly intense, physical brand of wrestling that Kowalczuk is trying to instill into FHS’s hallowed halls. “I was brought in here to change the culture,” he notes, “to bring an element of toughness back to Fenwick Wrestling.”

The young coach is beginning to make his tough, hard-nosed mark. During their daily practice grind, he preaches to his sweat-drenched matmen about “giving your best” and the quest for ongoing improvement. There are 21 wrestlers on Fenwick’s Boys’ Wrestling Team this season; Kowalzcuk wants to get that number up to around 35. “We will never be at 100 kids like a [large] public school,” he realizes, “but that [35] is a good number for us.”

Among the team’s members are nine freshmen boys, about half of whom played football and are in the process of losing their “baby fat,” getting into optimal shape. But Coach K is not happy about that number, either. “I want between 16 and 20 frosh next year,” he states, stressing that number as critical to his program’s growth, development and future success.

Kowalczuk and his creative coaching staff welcome inexperienced “newbies” and are trying their best to make practices more fun. On social media, they are employing hashtags such as #scratchandclaw and #enjoythejourney to help inspire their athlete-followers. “For me, it’s all about giving maximum effort and trying to get better every day. I tell my guys to enjoy the journey and not be as concerned about the outcome.” Kowalczuk adds what he knows from experience: that once the kids buy into his methods of teaching physicality and being relentlessness, the victories will come.

A Sophomore Shall Lead Them

Kowalczuk and Fenwick Wrestling are pinning their championship hopes largely on the strong shoulders of sophomore Kaminiski, who aspires to greatness and already is one of the best wrestlers in the United States, let alone in Illinois. Coach K knows who the national competition is. For the past three off-seasons, he has led Team Illinois’ frosh/soph Greco-Roman wrestling program to a national title and a third-place finish. So the 16-year-old protégé wants to prove to his new mentor just how dominant he can be. The coach admits to Kaminski being a “huge pull” for him taking the Fenwick job, and expectations already are sky high for late February at the State Farm Center in Champaign, IL. (Last season, Kaminski was undefeated heading downstate and was the only underclassman among his 16-man field.)


Black History Month: My Fenwick Experience

By Marlon R. Hall, Sr., EdD., Guest Blogger

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”  ― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Dr. Marlon Hall

My journey to Fenwick High School began as a student in 1972. I was one of 11 African-American males that year who entered as freshmen. At the time, there were only two African-American males in the entire school. The most memorable episode of African-American student integration of schools in the history of our nation occurred 15 years earlier when nine students entered Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. They were called the “Little Rock Nine.”  I am calling us, “The Fenwick 11.”

The route to Fenwick began at my grammar school, Our Lady of Sorrows, on the West Side of Chicago. During our eighth grade year, high school representatives traveled to our school to speak about the advantages of attending Gordon Tech, Providence-St. Mel, Hales Franciscan, Holy Trinity, St. Ignatius, Loyola Academy and Fenwick.

The Fenwick representative was a man by the name of Mr. Kennedy. At the time, he was the Dean of Students/Vice Principal. His presentation really fascinated me. He spoke about the famous alumni, the class schedule and the opportunity to be enrolled in a Physical Education course for four years. The athletic prowess in me loved the idea of time in the gym for four years. Previously, I had the privilege of attending a basketball game in the old Lawless Gym in 1965. My cousin, Darnell, was playing for the St. Phillips High Lightweight basketball team in the Annual Fenwick Junior Basketball Holiday Tournament, so I was aware of the school, the township of Oak Park, and the ‘el’ ride from the West Side of Chicago.

Marlon Hall as a Fenwick freshman in 1972-73.

I decided that Fenwick was the place for me after Mr. Kennedy’s presentation. I arranged a campus visit with Mr. Kennedy, and he introduced me to Greg Stephans, an African-American student at Fenwick who took me on a tour of the campus. After the tour, I took the entrance exam with five of my classmates. After the testing was completed, one of my classmates was fully accepted, one was rejected, and the rest of us were told that we needed summer enrichment in math, English or reading. For four weeks in the summer, I took a math course with Mr. Finnell and a reading course with Mr. Kucienski (self-appointed ‘Sir’). During those few weeks, I became acquainted with the Fenwick community, travelling to Oak Park, and met new people like Don Howard, Henry Tolbert, George Kas, Kevin Galvin and Kevin Prendergast. They became freshman classmates of mine at Fenwick. I finished the courses sufficiently and I was fully accepted into Fenwick High School.

The ‘N’ word and other slurs

What happened during the next year was unexpected! I guess I was naïve coming from the West Side of Chicago. After the summer school experience, I thought that I would be able to successfully integrate into the Fenwick community. But I was called nigger, bourgie, burrhead, ‘boy,’ and one upperclassman one day decided to take it out on me and slapped me across the head and said, “Nigger, why did you come to this school!” This was not part of the program.

I was spit upon. Pennies were thrown at me, and my classmates threw rocks at us as we walked to the bus stop or the el stop. I can look through my Blackfriars 1973 Annual and remember every Fenwick student who communicated some type of racial slur or comment at me during my brief tenure at the school. The insults hurt but made me stronger. I decided to leave Fenwick after my freshman year. I transferred to Hales Franciscan, where I completed my high school education. Out of the 11 freshman, only three remained to graduate in 1976. They were Donald Howard, Henry Clarke and Wilbur Parker.

In the early 1970s, racial tension ran high in schools across America, from Virginia to Illinois. Oak Park and Fenwick were no exceptions.

Since leaving Fenwick in 1973, I realized that I should have remained and completed my education there. I have voiced that opinion to other members of the Fenwick 11 whom I remain in contact with. They agree. But, why did nearly all of us leave? Fenwick is one of the greatest educational experiences any student could have, especially a “ghetto” kid from Chicago’s West Side. The ridicules, the snickers, the violence afflicted, the racial slurs that I suffered made me a stronger individual.

Continue reading “Black History Month: My Fenwick Experience”

Fenwick Faculty Focus: Alan Howell, Foreign Language Dept. Chair


Alan Howell, the Chairman of the Foreign Language Department, is in his 34th year of teaching at Fenwick.

What is your education and background?

AH: I attended Kalamazoo College as an under-graduate and earned a major in Spanish language and literature and a minor in instrumental music. I spent my junior year in Spain living with a Spanish family and studying Spanish history, art and literature. I completed the requirements for a Michigan teaching license as part of my under-graduate program. After graduation, I returned to Spain and taught English to Spanish students for several months. I did my graduate degree at University of Michigan, where I was a teaching fellow and earned an MA degree in Hispanic language and literature.

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?

AH: Before coming to Fenwick I taught junior high English and high school Spanish at Whiteford Agricultural School in Ottawa Lake, Michigan. When I moved to Chicago, I took a job at an elementary alternative school teaching all subjects. Following that experience, I spent three years at the Academy of Our Lady on the south side of Chicago. I began my years at Fenwick in the summer of 1983.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

AH: I am reading the following books for my personal enjoyment: Science and the Afterlife Experience, When Healing Becomes a Crime and Secret History of Extraterrestrials. 

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

AH: My interests include gardening, watching classic films, reading and exercising.

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?

AH: As a student my main interest was band.  I played in the marching band, concert band and the jazz band. My instruments were the trumpet and baritone.  I was a member of the JETS club. I served as editor of the school newspaper one year. I wrote a weekly column about my high school’s events which appeared every Sunday in the Kalamazoo Gazette along with articles submitted from students of other area schools.

Continue reading “Fenwick Faculty Focus: Alan Howell, Foreign Language Dept. Chair”

STEM Studies Can Lead to Biotech Careers



Fenwick alumnus Ray Bandziulis says he has spent his entire, 28-year career in the biotech field. 

By Mark Vruno

Courses related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are some of the more popular classes among Fenwick’s student body. Several members of the Class of 2021, for example, are enrolled in Freshman AP (Advanced Placement) and Honors Biology taught by Ms. Amy Christophell ’06. They, along with upper-classmen and women, were treated last semester to a visit by a distinguished Friar alumnus and biotechnology expert Ray Bandziulis, PhD.,’76.

Dr. Bandziulis is Vice President of Quality Assurance & Regulatory Affairs at Lucigen Corp. in Middleton, WI, near Madison, where he helps to design and manufacture reagent tools for DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (ribonucleic acid) research as well as molecular diagnostic devices for infectious diseases. With annual sales of approximately $15 million, the 20-year-old company now sells internationally. Bandziulis defines the biotech industry as “an interesting blend of science business and engineering skills – working together to solve problems in the life sciences and in human medicine by the application of DNA technology.”


A scientist at work in the Lucigen lab near Madison, Wisconsin.

Essentially every cell within each person’s body contains the same hereditary DNA – and this is where the differences begin to emerge. “Our unique ‘DNA signature’ identifies us as individuals,” Bandziulis explained to four groups of about 150 curious Fenwick students assembled in the school’s Auditorium in mid-November. He returned to visit his alma mater and reconnect with John Polka, his former biology teacher who retired last June after 52 years at Fenwick. Continue reading “STEM Studies Can Lead to Biotech Careers”

Thomist School Curriculum

Fenwick considers our minds, our bodies and our faith to be gifts from God. It is our moral obligation to grow in all three of these areas.

By Gerald F. Lordan, O.P., Ph.D., Social Studies Teacher and Faculty Mentor

St. Thomas Aquinas

As some of us may know, Fenwick is the only high school sponsored by Dominican Friars in America. As such we are a national lighthouse for the Thomist educational philosophy.


Thomism evolved from the writing of St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., an Italian Dominican (1225-1274).  Aquinas was educated at the University of Paris by a German Dominican, St. Albert the Great, O.P. (1200-1280). It is the greatest joy of every teacher to be surpassed by his student. Thomas brought joy to the heart of Albert. St Dominic de Guzman, O.P. (1170-1221), a Spanish Dominican and the founder of the Order of Preachers, believed in an educated clergy. To that end he sent the Friars to study the Liberal Arts at the great universities of Medieval Europe. The liberal arts influence the Fenwick curriculum today.

A curriculum is the set of planned activities designed to change the observable behavior of a student. There is a curriculum continuum. One end of that continuum has a Roman influence. The word curriculum comes from the bales of straw that delineated the chariot race course in the Colosseum. The goal of this curriculum is to cover all the prescribed material and nothing but the prescribed material in the shortest possible amount of time. The other end of this continuum has a Chinese influence.  It is the dao, the vast treeless grassy plain of western China. There is not a set course of travel. Everything looks the same in all directions all the way out to the horizon. One may, therefore, go wherever one wishes, when one wishes, at the speed one wishes.

The 1959 movie classic “Ben-Hur” was remade in 2016. But what does chariot racing have to do with curriculum?

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